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Numerology is any system that believes in or assigns numbers a meaning beyond their mathematical meaning and/or connects numbers and patterns found in groups of numbers with events, objects, or people in the real world. There are a number of numerological systems, and a numerologist is someone who practices numerology or provides occult interpretations of numbers using one of these systems.
The origins of numerology are traced to the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who said that all things can be expressed in terms of numbers, and his followers, the Pythagoreans. In their view, each number had a mystical meaning. We can see reverberations of this sort of thinking even in those who don’t believe in numerology, but—for example—have a lucky number.
In its infancy, the approach to numbers as sources of revelation was called arithomancy or arithmancy. These approaches to numbers—used in early times by Chaldeans, Greeks, and Hebrews—align the letters of the alphabet used by the culture with the set of numbers according to some standardized rule. Thus, any word can be rendered in a numeric form by a numerologist, who adds the individual values together, and interprets the meaning of the results. A numerologist today, using a similar system, might interpret a person’s name to reveal his or her character, talents, aptitudes, and future. Some say that from a person’s name, a numerologist can divine a person’s inner life, outer life, and path.
Arithmancy and numerology, although having ancient origins, are still of keen interest to many people today. You may be familiar with the second word because this was the name of a course that Hermione took in the Harry Potter book The Prisoner of Azkaban. There are many websites devoted to arithmancy or numerology and Harry Potter. Today’s numerologists may have close ties to astrology or tarot. The practice is also linked in current times to the I-Ching and Feng Shui, as well as to Kabbalah or Qabbalah.
The Hebrew practice of numerology associated with the Kabbalah is called gematria or gimatria. It is a form of alphabetic substitution use by a numerologist to unlock hidden meanings of scriptural and other texts. In this system, the numbers one through ten are aligned with the first ten letters of the Hebrew alphabet; the multiples of ten from 20 to 90 are aligned with the next eight; and the first four hundreds—100, 200, 300, and 400—are aligned with the final four letters. English has four more letters in its alphabet than Hebrew, and the numerical associations are different for today’s numerologists. But the underlying search for meaning and understanding in both pursuits still have much in common.
What a Numerologist Does
Numerology has an ancient heritage but has evolved as a practice over time. Many people utilize the principles casually in their lives. Some professional consultants offer numerology services to evaluate situations, words, names, and numbers.
Numerologists typically begin by deriving a "life path number" from someone's birth date. A numerologist will calculate this by adding all individual digits within a date. The numerologist repeats the addition until an entire date reduces to a single number, except for some specific two-digit "master numbers." Numerologists use this number as a part of an overall chart or report to assume much information about a person's character and influences.
A numerology chart often consists of six numbers. Three numbers, called a "soul's urge," a "personality number," and an "attitude number," are derived from the letters of your name. A numerologist will often calculate three numbers from your date of birth. These are a "birth number," the aforementioned "life path number," and an "attitude number." The soul's urge refers to inner desires and personal happiness. The personality number denotes the aspects of your character that you demonstrate to others. The power number shows the strength of your character. The birth number symbolizes how others see you at first glance. The life path number reveals the journey you must take and connects to your core identity. The aptly named attitude number indicates your general outlook toward life.
There are a few ways modern numerologists still consult with clients.
- Answer questions concerning job and career choices
- Offer in-depth personal analysis of personality and behavior patterns
- Discuss the trend of events to come
- Assist with personal growth and self-evaluation
- Propose a selection of dates for special events
- Help to choose a professional name, business name, or stage name
Numerologists often practice a combination of mystical arts. The use of numbers as meaningful symbols are typically just one feature of their occult practices. Most practitioners have a belief system that acts as the foundation of divining meaning. They then apply associated numerological systems to their fundamental process. An example is a tarot card reader that starts their forecast by drawing cards, and then adds details to that prediction with characteristics assigned by an associated number.
Numerologists in History
There are many notable examples of established numerologists in history aside from Pythagoras. The earliest documented use of the ancient system of gematria is from an Assyrian inscription commissioned by king Sargon II in the 8th century. Gematria also makes appearances in various ancient Christian and Jewish texts. There are at least two cases of gematria appearing in the New Testament.
Some alchemical theories have close ties to numerology. Jabir ibn Hayvan is a historical alchemist that utilized elaborate numerology based upon the names of chemical compounds. His attempts to reduce the world to numbers inspired him to create hundreds of writings and established the oldest known systematic classification of chemical compounds.
Sir Thomas Browne's 1658 discourse "The Garden of Cyrus" is an artistic work of numerology. Modern scholars recognize his writing as an early literary contribution to Hermetic wisdom. Browne sought to prove intelligent design with the prevalence of patterns of fives and diamonds in art and design.
Mrs. L. Dow Balliett was one of the most renowned numerologists in the 1800s. She wrote some of the earliest books on the history of numerology. Her work helped popularize many modern numerological concepts, including the "vibrational power of numbers."
Some Systems of Numerology
Pythagorean numerology was invented by the Greek mathematician Pythagoras. It assigns meaning to the numbers 1-9. Numerologists use this system to depict the attributes of a person inside and out.
Chaldean numerology is an older occult system. It is based upon the numbers 1-8 and gives more specific meaning to various numbers from 1-52. Numerologists use this system to find lucky and unlucky numbers.
Cheiro numerology is a system derived in the 1800s by a popular clairvoyant named William John Warner. He derived his method from Chaldean numerology but focused on modern applications of the old system. Warner became a celebrity for his predictions of the Russian revolution, World War II, England's Trade Union strike in 1926, and various other historical events in English politics.
Kabbalah numerology is designed from the Hebrew alphabet and only uses a person's name to derive meaning. It is one of the more popular styles of numerology after the adoption of Hollywood stars like Britney Spears and Madonna.